Three businesses have sued the Missouri Department of Revenue for increasing its fee to access motor vehicle and driver records

Sunday, May 11, 2008 | 5:04 p.m. CDT; updated 9:11 a.m. CDT, Tuesday, July 22, 2008

KANSAS CITY — Three businesses have sued to block the Missouri Department of Revenue from increasing its fee for motor vehicle and driver records.

R.L. Polk & Co., Explore Information Services and SAMBA Holdings filed the lawsuit Friday, saying their businesses cannot afford the $7-per-record fee the department instituted May 1, according to The Kansas City Star.

“It’s going to have a huge impact on our business,” said Tim Sowton, regional director of government relations for R.L. Polk.

Before the increase, the companies paid about $2,000 for the state’s database of about 4 million records.

The new cost of $7 for each record puts the cost of the database at $28 million.

The department said the additional cost was necessary to upgrade the database and pay for a more integrated system to help law enforcement cross-reference vehicle registration with driver’s licenses.

The lawsuit argues that the fee increase violates the Missouri Sunshine Law, which regulates public access and sets limits on what government agencies can charge for records.

“Under Missouri law, there is a clear law that the government should not profit by making its records available,” said Michael Dallmeyer, an attorney representing R.L. Polk.

Omar Davis, director of the Revenue Department, said the department officials think driver records aren’t covered by the Sunshine Law because they are the private records of Missouri citizens.

The records are not available to the general public, but certain entities can obtain them if they have a valid reason for needing the information. Davis said it is not a matter of access.

“We will still provide them in bulk,” he said. “It’s simply a matter of price.”

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